On the whole, I enjoy the Lydia Chin novels in this series more than the Bill Smith ones, while I'd say the Bill Smith novels are better novels. Winter and Night was the best of both worlds -- it was probably the best written in the series, and I really enjoyed it.
Bill gets a call in the middle of the night to come help a teen that the NYPD has taken into custody. He does brings the kid, Gary, home with him and hears a vague sob story about how Gary's just trying to help, trying to do the right thing. And then he runs away. Bill gets Lydia to start looking for Gary in NYC while he goes to check out the kid's hometown.
There's more wrong in the small town Gary ran from than just a missing kid. This little town is football-crazy, I'm talking Texas football crazy, the kind of thing you think King of the Hill and Friday Night Lights is making too much of, but start to wonder if they're not. Then there's a dead high schooler. And seemingly every person in the town is telling Bill not to think that this had anything to do with a rape and murder over 20 years ago. Which, just gets him wondering, naturally.
This case gets under Bill's skin, hitting close to home, and worse. Lydia compares him to a patched-up furnace that's about to explode. He gets pretty close a couple of times, actually. Making this a rougher, more raw, more violent story (not that Bill's books are absent violence). Because this is so close to him, he makes some really dumb mistakes -- Bill, Lydia and the police spend a few chapters trying to prevent a crime that's just not going to happen, and I spent far too much time annoyed with them from not seeing things are clearly as I could.
How does Rozan do it? Seriously, you get the same two characters in two different novels or four different always know each taking the lead and is like it's two different series. You know, there's a certain feel when you read a Robert Crais book -- Elvis Cole book or a Joe Pike book, the books are different, and the two protagonists/narrative voiced are different. But you can tell they're by the same writer. Not the case here -- at all -- it's not even close. If you told me the two different people writing the series I'd absolutely believe you.
For my money, this is the best in the series (so far). Thoughtful, suspenseful, moody . . . everything you want in a P. I. novel.